Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Visegrad, Nordic and Baltic countries met in Gdańsk on the 20th of February 2013. During the meeting, hosted by Sweden’s Minister Carl Bildt and Poland’s Minister Radosław Sikorski, the Ministers agreed that Northern and Central European states must work actively towards strengthening the European Union and Europe as a whole.
Ministers agreed that growth in Europe can be stimulated by strengthening the single market as well as developing energy and transport infrastructure. It was agreed that the internal market stands at the core of efforts to restore growth and competitiveness as well as job creation in Europe and that further co-operation between the Nordic, Baltic and Visegrad countries is called upon. It was highlighted that in order to better use the potential of such co-operation necessary steps should be taken to improve transport and energy connections between these regions.
In that context, Ministers underlined the importance of a fully functioning EU internal energy market, based on diversified, integrated and liberalized energy markets. They further agreed that the common goal also contributing to the security of the region is to ensure stable supplies of energy resources at competitive price. The modernization of existing and building of new energy infrastructure, the promotion of energy efficiency and renewable energy will go hand in hand in contributing to the security of supply in the region as well as meeting climate policy challenges.
An exchange of views was also held on current developments in the global energy markets, and their implications for the countries in the region. The importance of dialogue and partnership with major energy suppliers, based on a rule- and market approach was emphasized.
The Ministers discussed relations with the Eastern European partners, and in particular preparations for the Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius in November 2013. They agreed that the Eastern Partnership has been pivotal in strengthening integration on the European continent, and expressed their support for the European aspirations and the European choice of some Eastern European partners.
They further called on the Eastern European partner countries to intensify reform efforts in line with the Eastern Partnership Road Map, in order to prepare the ground for an ambitious outcome of the Summit, and committed to jointly push for the EU to respond accordingly.
Hope was expressed that the Association Agreements and Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreements between the EU and the Republic of Moldova, Georgia and Armenia would be initialed by the time of the Summit. The Ministers called on Ukraine to demonstrate determined action and tangible progress in line with the EU Council Conclusions of December 2012, in order to pave the way for signing the Association Agreement/DCFTA during the Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius. Moreover, the Ministers highlighted the dynamic development of the Eastern Partnership multilateral cooperation and stressed importance of further strengthening of the flagship initiatives and creating new ones as well as further enhancement of people-to-people contacts and support for youth and students’ exchanges and scholarship programmes.
The latest developments in Russia were discussed. The situation of Human Rights in Russia was considered as worrying. The importance of Russia´s continued negotiations with the EU on the New Agreement, which will replace the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement from 1997, was highlighted.
Developments in relation to European and International Security were discussed. It was agreed that Visegrad, Nordic and Baltic countries due to their geographic proximity, shared values and interest had an important role to play in promoting democracy, rule of law and security.
Ministers agreed that cooperation between our countries would serve well strengthening our security in a changing international environment. Joint assessment of challenges and joint promotion of our regional security perspective would make our interests more visible and more comprehensible to others in the broader Euro Atlantic security environment including EU and NATO.
In this context Ministers agreed to look for opportunities to jointly develop capabilities within NATO and EU respectively. Taking into account envisaged limitation of NATO operational engagement after 2014 Ministers called for the development of initiatives which would help to maintain interoperability among Allies’ and Partner’s forces. The need for tangible exercise and training was mentioned specifically.
Ministers discussed and expressed support for the elaboration of a European Global Strategy. Such a strategy would clarify what values and interests the EU should promote, and how to go about it.
The ministers agreed that Europe had an important role in international conflict prevention and mitigation. To enhance its capacity in this respect, the ministers stressed that Europe needed more flexible tools at its disposal, for example through the establishment of a European Institute of Peace, engaged in peace mediation and informal dialogue.
The European Council on defense in December 2013 was discussed and Ministers agreed that the preparations should focus on tangible measures for improving European crisis management capabilities, taking into account a wide security context and a comprehensive approach.
Ministers also called for staunch support for Iceland’s EU aspirations and EU enlargement in general.
The Ministers expressed their satisfaction that the meeting in Gdańsk was an important occasion for Northern and Central European countries to discuss their engagement in European matters. The Ministers expressed their interest in gradually bringing the Nordic/Baltic and Visegrad regional cooperation closer together.